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Five (non-obvious) ways to get new fans

February 3, 2010 |  6:00 am

Ian Rogers and Tom Silverman

Ian Rogers (left), CEO of Topspin, and Tom Silverman at the New Music Seminar. Credit: Alex Pham, Los Angeles Times.

If you're a musician, your magic number is 1,000.

That’s the number of “true fans” required to launch a band from being a night job to a day job, at least according to Kevin Kelly, who wrote a famous essay on the topic. The theory goes that if you can get 1,000 hard core fans to pay $100 a year to attend your concerts, purchase your songs and buy your T-shirts, you'd have a tidy $100,000 income. (Of course, there are minor details, such as expenses and the fact that there may be other people in your band. But that's a topic for another day.)

So where do you find fans, now that you’ve already recruited your parents, roommates and cousins to be your fans on Facebook?

We asked the industry pros who came to the New Music Seminar in Los Angeles on Tuesday for their best, non-obvious tricks for bagging new fans. We’ve distilled their advice into five quick tips.

1)    Play nice with search engines. So the obvious thing is to get people’s email address. One of the less obvious ways to get new fans is to have good [search engine optimization]. Thirty percent of new fans come from emails. But 30% come from Google or Yahoo. It’s people who are using search engines to find you. You need to make sure that if people look for you, they will find you.  – Ian Rogers, Topspin

2)    Use SMS texting. You can give away a song download or wallpaper or ringtone to people who text you their email address. Next time you’re playing  in town, you can tell them and let them in free if they bring three friends. So your 100 fans suddenly become 300 paying fans. With live concerts, the goal is to sell 300 tickets. That’s incredibly hard to do. – Tom Silverman, co-founder, New Music Seminar

3)    Buy a Facebook ad. "I spent $10 on a targeted Facebook ad and got 50,000 impressions and a good click-through rate. You can target only people who work at certain companies, like Google. You can target fans of other bands like yours. You can target only people in L.A. or San Francisco. So go to your band page on Facebook. There's a link that says, 'Get more fans. Promote your page.' Just click it." – Corey Denis, music marketing consultant, Not Shocking

4)    Speak to the fringe. "We had a client who spent 11 months out of the year sailing and one month recording an album.  Her songs were all about sailing. And she pitched her story to these boating and yachting magazines, and they all did these stories on her. She sold 10,000 albums a year, and most of them were to other sailors." – Derek Sivers, founder, CD Baby

5)    Talk to your fans. A lot of bands disappear when their show is over when what they really need to do is come out and talk to them. Have them engage in your show. Give them a video camera during the show and have them pass it around. Get their email addresses and then send them a notice when you post it so they can embed the video on their own sites. – Mike Doernberg, founder, ReverbNation

And as a reward for reading this far, here's a bonus tip from Silverman, whose credits include the creation of Tommy Boy Records, a record label for hip hop, dance and electronica bands:

6)    Develop your story. "Let’s take Susan Boyle. Her music was irrelevant. She was irrelevant. What sold her albums was her story. Of course, the music has to be good, too.  But there’s a lot of good music out there. But there aren’t a lot of good stories." 

-- Alex Pham

Follow my random thoughts on games, gear and technology on Twitter @AlexPham.

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